Buddy Walk returns this weekend to celebrate people with Down syndrome

RICHLAND, Wash. — October 1st marks the return of the annual Buddy Walk, taking place in Richland.  

The walk raises money for the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-Columbia (DSAMC), which aims to educate, advocate for and celebrate people with Down syndrome.  

Individuals with Down syndrome are born with an extra copy of Chromosome 21, which causes distinct facial features and development delays. But, advocates will tell you, that extra chromosome makes a person extra awesome.  

Howard Amon Park will be filled with the smiling faces of participants on Saturday, fully in-person for the first time since the pandemic began.  

“The last two years we’ve had to alter it a little bit; a virtual walk and then a drive-thru,” said DSAMC board member Lindsey Meagher.” So, we’re just really excited to be back in person doing our walk.” 

The Buddy Walk is the DSAMC’s only fundraiser, and it’s needed to fund the services it provides.  

“We offer new parent packets, we offer support groups, play groups, this year we’re really happy to bring the ICan Shine, ICan Swim program to our area,” Meagher said.  

Marla Summer is the mother of 11-year-old Joshua, who prefers to be called Joshy.  

“My son loves everyone. Everyone is his friend. He is welcoming, he is kind, he is happy to give hugs to everyone he meets and include them,” Summers said.  

Through the support received from the DSAMC and a shared experience of loving someone with Down syndrome, the Summers family has found a community.  

“Every step of the way, we’ve been able to reach out to our community, and they have reached out to us, even without us asking.” 

It’s been a similar experience for Kara Johnson and her son, Billy.  

“What makes us different is beautiful, is one of the things we like to say,” Johnson said. “The Down syndrome organization, it’s our second family.” 

The Buddy Walk is an event they look forward to every year.  

“It’s just a great day, it gets the community together and just shows the abilities our kids have and the joy and the love that they have,” Johnson said. “So, the Buddy Walk is still the best day for my crew.” 

You can register for the Buddy Walk online to receive a free T-shirt. You can also make a donation.  

“It also is not always about just fundraising,” Meagher said, “it’s about sharing our kids with the community, and celebrating the beautiful things that go with knowing and loving someone with Down syndrome.” 

The walk begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1. On-site registration will open at 10 a.m.